When a great actor appears in a mediocre movie, I often find myself thinking back to their better ones, which is what happened in “Now You See Me 2.” It shares some similarities with “The Shawshank Redemption,” mainly Morgan Freeman in a major role, Morgan’s sonorous voiceover, a scene set to opera and a jailbreak. Both movies also take the time to dissect a character’s miraculous escape so that the viewer can see exactly what happened – or in this case, five characters. However, the theme has more in common with “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping,” which is about a group of egotistical individuals learning that they’re more powerful when they work (wait for it) as a team.
The opening scene (just in time for Father’s Day) features a flashback with Young Mark Ruffalo, his dad, a magic trick that goes horribly wrong, and Morgan present as someone hoping to expose the dad as a fraud. Then we’re back in the present, when we’re introduced to the various four Horsemen (only now there’s five): Jesse Eisenberg, Dave Franco, Woody Harrelson, Mark Ruffalo and Lizzy Caplan, who gets to be the newbie. The FBI (headed by Michael Caine) is supposedly hot on the trail of the Horsemen, and Morgan’s character is in jail because of plot points from the last movie that are explained. However, Morgan is planning revenge. The characters wind up in the lair of Daniel Radcliffe, who also has it in for them because of other plot points that get explained – and he forces them to pull off a heist against their will – after somehow transporting them without them knowing it to China. (I’m guessing perhaps the real world version of Floo Powder was involved.) The object: a computer chip that will let you hack into any computer on the planet. (There’s a bit more to their task, but that’s the gist.)
The characters come up with a plan and end up in the lair of yet another evil genius, whose hermetically sealed top secret chamber where the card with the computer chip is gave me another flashback to the TV room in “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory – it’s white, sterile and difficult to extract oneself from. The escape involves a card trick, that is fun at first, but then goes on a little too long. Eventually, the characters turn the tables on Daniel, Michael and Woody’s annoying twin brother, who insinuates himself in the high jinks, as well early on. At the end, Mark obeys his conscience and gives the Everlasting Gobstopper back, and as it turns out, Slugworth has really been on their side all along. Well, not exactly, but out of the two movies, it’s the one with considerably more magic.